Fires Rage In California As Heat Wave Brings Record-Breaking Temperatures
Lydia O’Connor – September 1, 2022
California is facing multiple heat-related woes this week that have become all too familiar in the state: record-breaking temperatures, out-of-control wildfires and widespread power outages.
The intense heat wave began engulfing the Golden State ahead of Labor Day Weekend, prompting warnings from the National Weather Service on Wednesday and a state of emergency declaration from Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).
Temperatures may soon reach into the mid-110s inland and low 100s on the coast, posing “a high to very high threat not only to more heat-sensitive populations such as the elderly and those without air-conditioning, but to the general population as well due to the prolonged duration of excessively hot temperatures,” the NWS warned, adding that people should expect “little relief from the heat overnight.”
Several places in Southern California have already seen the heat wave break daily temperature records, including a staggering 112 degrees in Los Angeles County’s Burbank and Woodland Hills. Orange County’s Anaheim, home to Disneyland, hit 106 degrees, clocking its hottest-ever August day on record.
People should prepare for the heat to get worse and last into next week, NWS officials said.
A mother stands with her 5-year-old son, whose school was evacuated during the Route Fire, on Wednesday. (Photo: Mario Tama via Getty Images)
With heat in bone-dry, drought-stricken California comes wildfires. Castaic’s Route fire north of Los Angeles has burned more than 5,000 acres since erupting a day earlier, forcing evacuations and shutting down lanes on a major freeway. It remained only 12% contained as of Thursday morning.
“As you know, the weather conditions are extreme, and excessive heat, low humidity and steep terrain are going to be some of the most challenging conditions that our firefighters are facing today,” Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesperson Sheila Kelliher Berkoh said in a Thursday morning update to reporters.
“Yesterday we had seven individuals that were treated for heat-related injuries,” said the department’s deputy chief, Tom Ewald, noting that they’ve all recovered enough to be released from the hospital.
On Wednesday, news crews spotted a phenomenon known as “fire tornadoes” or “fire whirls,” which are spinning columns of rising hot air. KTLA estimated those in the Route fire were around 20 feet tall.
Another blaze that broke out Wednesday along the California-Mexico border has surpassed 4,000 acres and remains just 5% contained.
The demand for air conditioning and other electricity needs in the coming days is expected to put immense strain on California’s already-overloaded power grid, which could mean rolling blackouts across the state if people don’t conserve.
“This is just the latest reminder of how real the climate crisis is, and how it is impacting the everyday lives of Californians,” Newsom said in a statement. “While we are taking steps to get us through the immediate crisis, this reinforces the need for urgent action to end our dependence on fossil fuels that are destroying our climate and making these heat waves hotter and more common.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.